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How HR Can Build Its Own Talent Pipeline

Your process for hiring HR talent should be as rigorous as it is for every other part of the business.

Missing hr competencies.

​Talent drives results. That’s true for every organization—and for HR, too. Yet even as HR specializes in effective hiring strategies, we rarely look in the mirror to grade how we secure our own team members.

To create agile, competitive companies, HR’s people strategy must constantly evolve. That requires detailed knowledge of the business, along with collaboration and vision. Despite the profession’s longtime focus on such strategic practices, a recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey report found that only 28 percent of C-suite executives viewed human resources as purely strategic. Thirty-seven percent said Leadership & Navigation, while critical to their organizations, are qualities lacking in the labor pool for HR.

How can you find candidates with these competencies? The SHRM survey report, Using Competencies to Achieve Business Unit Success—The Executive Perspective, found that executives viewed hiring from outside the organization as the best way to fill those gaps. Yet HR pros may have trouble recognizing their best prospects. Only one-fifth felt very confident in their ability to identify entry-level applicants’ skills.

The number of undergraduate and graduate HR programs is growing, and many implement competency-based curricula. But many in the profession follow circuitous career paths and lack specialized degrees that set them apart.

So what should you do? The next time you’re looking for talented people to join your department, consider this advice.

Be clear about what you’re looking for. The first step to better selection is understanding which work activities and capabilities are most critical to the job. You can conduct your own job analysis, rely on a source like the U.S. Labor Department’s O*NET database of occupational qualifications or use a global competency model. HR competency models and certifications in particular can be invaluable.

Link competencies to your selection process and tools. Some instruments are better than others at assessing different competencies. Which are best assessed by the different parts of your selection process? The most common tools when hiring entry-level candidates are in-person interviews, applications and resumes. While you might use an application or resume to gauge an applicant’s writing ability, a knowledge test or work sample might be better for evaluating her critical evaluation skills.

[SHRM members-only resource: Compentency FAQs]

Know what your competitors are offering. You can discern this by combining industry benchmarking data with information from departing employees and candidates who turn down job offers in favor of competitors.

Get the most out of your assessments. Once you know what you’re looking for, be consistent about the way you find it. Regardless of the assessment method you choose, make sure you use standardized rating criteria, which increases the likelihood that the tool will actually predict job performance and measure the capabilities you’re looking for. You can even structure the way you evaluate resumes to ensure that you’re being as objective as possible.

Evaluate your evaluations. Check how well your processes and tools are working. This concept, referred to as “validity,” should be the No. 1 driver in determining whether you’re using the right tools. Good selection should result in better productivity, decreased costs and lower turnover.

So do yourself a favor and make a great hire for HR. You won’t regret it—not only because you’ll need to work with the new person but also because it will drive results.

Shonna Waters is vice president of research at SHRM.

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